Page images
PDF
EPUB

been broken by the infidelities of princes, and how he who best personated the fox had the better success. It is however of great consequence to disguise your inclination and play the hypocrite: and so simple are men in their temper, and so submissive to their present necessities, that he who is neat and dexterous in his collusions shall never want people to practise them upon. I cannot forbear an example : Alexander VI. never practised, or thought of any thing, but cheating, and never wanted inatter to work upon; and though no man ever promised with more solemn asseveration, or confirmed his promises with more oaths and imprecations, or observed them with less scrupulousness, yet well knowing the world he never miscarried. • A prince therefore is not obliged to have in reality the good qualities we have mentioned ; but it is necessary to have them in appearance. Nay, I will venture to affirm, that having them actually and employing them upon all occasions, they are exuremely prejudicial; whereas having them only in appearance they turn to good account. It is honourable to seem mild, and merciful, and courteous, and religious, and sincere, and indeed to be so, provided your mind be so rectified and pre• . pared, that upon occasion you can act quite con'trary. A prince, especially if come but lately to the throne, cannot observe with strictness all that is esteemed virtuous in men; he must sometimes, for the preservation of his state, practise things in

human

human, uncharitable, and irreligious ; it is therefore convenient that his inind be at his cominand, and flexible to all the puffs and variations of his fortune : not forbearing to be good, when he has it in his choice, but knowing how to be evil when.. ever there shall be necessity. do ósea

Ib. chmi.

Let us compare what the historians of all ages have said concerning the courts of monarchs ; let us recollect the conversation and sentiments of people of all countries, in respect to the wretched character of courtiers, and we shall find, that these are not mere airy speculations, but things confirmed by a sad and melancholy experience. .

Ambition joined to idleness, and business to pride ;a desire of obtaining riches without labour, and an aversion to truth; flattery, treachery, perfidy, violation of engagements, contempt of civil duties, fear of the prince's virtues, hope from his weakness, but above all a perpetual ridicule cast upon virtue, are, I think, the characteristics by which most courtiers in all ages and countries have been constantly distinguished.

Monteso,

MontesQUIEU.
Spirit of Laws, b. xii. ch. xxiii.

From the lips of your courtiers you have heard, and hereafter you will much oftener hear, the grossest flattery. Should you do that which the son of your slave could at any time have done better than yourself, they will affirm that you have performed a most extraordinary act. Should you obey your pas

03

sions

sions, they will affirm, you have done well. Should you pour forth the blood of your subjects as a river does its waters, they will pronounce, you have done well. Should you tax the free air, they will assert, you have done well. Should you, powerful as you are, become revengeful, still would they proclaim, you had done well. So they told the intoxicated Alexander, when he plunged his dagger into the bosom of his friend. Thus they addressed Nero, when he assassinated his mother.

MIRABEAU. Memorial to the King of Prussia.

ssass

· When Waller was young he had the curiosity to go to court ! and he stood in the circle and saw James dine ; where, among other company, there sat at table two bishops, Neile and Andrews. The king proposed aloud this question : Whether he might not take his subjects money, when he needed it, without all this formality of parliament? Neile replied, God forbid you should not : for you are the breath of our nostrils.

HUME. ,, History of England, vol, vi, p. 75.

[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]
[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

THE most lofty titles, and the most humble postures, which devotion has applied to the supreme Being, have been prostituted by flattery and fear to creatures of the same nature with ourselves. The mode of adoration, of falling prostrate on the ground, and kissing the feet of the emperor, was borrowed by Dioclesian from Persian servitude; but it was continued and aggravated till the last age of the Greek monarchy. Excepting only on Sundays, when it was waved from a motive of religious pride, this humiliating reverence was exacted from all who entered the royal presence. In his transactions of business, Liutprand, bishop of Cremona, asserted the free spirit of a Frank, and the dignity of his master Otho. Yet his sincerity cannot disguise the abasement of his first

04

audience.

* The preceding article related to the effect of courts, as they tend to deprave the prince to whom they are an appendage; the present article relates to their moral effects upon courtiers themselves, the persons of whom they are composed.

[ocr errors]

est

audience. When he approached the throne, the birds of the golden tree began to warble their notes, which were accompanied by the roarings of the two lions of gold. With his two companions, Liutprand was compelled to bow and fall prostrate; and thrice he touched the ground with his forehead. He arose, but, in the short interval, the throne had been hoisted by an engine from the floor to the ceiling, the imperial figure appeared in more new and gorgeoi?s apparel, and the interview was concluded in haughty and majestic silence. In this honest and curious narrative, the bishop of Cremona represents the ceremonies of die Byzana tine court, and which were preserved in the last sige by the dukes of Moscovy or Russia.

GIBBON.

Roman Empire, vol. v. P. 394. I HAVE just been sent upon an embassy to Japan. I was present at an audience given by the emperor to the Dutch envoy, who had sent several presents to all the courtiers, some days previous to his adniission, but he was obliged to attend those de.. signed for the emperor himself. From the accounts I had heard of this ceremony, my curiosity prompted me to be a spectator of the whole. : : ,

First went the presents, set out on beautiful enamelled tables, adorned with flowers, borne on men's shoulders, and followed by Japanese inusic and dancers. From so great respect paid to the gifts themselves, I had fancied the donors must receive almost divine honours. But, about a

quarter

« PreviousContinue »